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Identifying an insect in Cambridge UK


I have come across an insect in Cambridge UK that I could not identify.

I tried to find this in various catalogues of local insects without success. The insect was about 1-2cm in length and didn't move at all until it was disturbed. I found it around 11am. We are currently experiencing high temperature variations (8C-20C).

Could someone please help identify it and point me at any useful resources I can use in the future?


It's a greater bee fly, Bombylius major, a nectar feeder and generalist floral pollinator which pollinates hundreds of species of flowers. It lays eggs near real bee nests and it's larvae feed from the bee larvae.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombylius_major


Identifying an insect in Cambridge UK - Biology

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For caterpillars that are bred as premium fish bait, it must rank as a better life. Rather than dangling on the end of a hook and wondering what comes next, the grubs are set to join the war on plastic waste.

The larvae of wax moths are sold as delicious snacks for chub, carp and catfish, but in the wild the worms live on beeswax, making them the scourge of beekeepers across Europe.

But in a chance discovery, a scientist and amateur beekeeper has found that waxworms have a taste for more than wax. When Federica Bertocchini removed an infestation from one of her hives and put them in a plastic bag, the worms simply ate their way out.

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With such a voracious appetite for plastic, the worms could be put to good use, the scientists reasoned. Each year, the average person uses more than 200 plastic bags which can take between 100 and 400 years to degrade in landfill sites.

The grubs appear to breakdown polyethylene with the same enzymes they use for eating beeswax. To confirm that the worms were not simply chewing the plastic into smaller pieces, the scientists mashed some of them up and smeared the grub paste on plastic bags. Again, according to the study in Current Biology, holes appeared.

Paolo Bombelli, a biochemist at Cambridge who took part in the study, said the finding could lead to a solution to the plastic waste mounting up in waterways, oceans and landfills. With further research, the scientists hope to identify the enzymes that the waxworms produce when they go to work on a bag. The genes for these might then be put into bacteria, such as E coli, or into marine organisms called phytoplankton, and used to degrade plastics in the wild.

“We should be very happy that we have plastic for millions of items, but we need to be careful about plastic waste, and what we are studying might help for minimising that,” Bombelli said.

Because there are strict regulations around the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, another way to reduce plastic waste could be to breed large numbers of the waxworms and let them loose on waste. But that might only be viable if the worms have an endless appetite for plastic shopping bags.

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In 2018, I contributed the following teaching:
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Graduate course BIOMG7810: Problems in Genetics and Development: one session
Insect Physiology ENTOM4830: 20 lectures and linked labs/projects
Orientation Lectures in Molecular Biology and Genetics BIOMG1380, one lecture

In 2016, I contributed to the design of ARTH 4151 Topics in Media Arts, together with one lecture and lab visit for students. I also contributed one session in the graduate course BIOMG7810: Problems in Genetics and Development at Cornell University a professional development class at the University of Cambridge, UK and genomics workshops for undergraduate students at University of Mansfield, PA and Corning Community College, NY

In 2015, I contributed 20 lectures and linked labs/projects to Insect Physiology: (4830), one session in Graduate course ENTOM7670: Professional Development in Entomology, and one session in Graduate course BIOMG7810: Problems in Genetics and Development.

In 2014, I contributed 3 lectures in Chemical Ecology (3690), and one session in Graduate course BIOMG7810: Problems in Genetics and Development

In 2013, I contributed 20 lectures and linked labs/projects to the course Insect Physiology (ENTOM 4830), and I contributed to the BIOMG7810 Problems in Genetics and Development.


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We are an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures.

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